Burgess Hill Town General Manager- and these days also manager Simon Wormull’s Assistant- John Rattle was warming up the goalkeepers- although he’d have needed a large furnace to do that properly. He was positive about recent form, but also convinced that today’s match was of great importance. “There are no standout teams in the league this year, everyone can beat everyone else. But it’s matches like this that will make the difference, against opponents at our end of the table and in weather like this.” Did he expect the Hillians to win? “Yes- but I’d be ok with a draw, too!” He laughed and wandered off to kick a stray ball back towards the dugout, whilst in the stand both home and away supporters were also saying they’d be ok with a draw. One of them was describing the match as a “six-pointer,” and given it isn’t yet Christmas it was perhaps a little early to be thinking that way, but it wasn’t difficult to understand what he meant.
Burgess Hill, playing up the, erm, Whitehawk Hill, got us underway, rain driving into their backs- and into every nook and cranny of every stand and terrace. And the noise started, too- but, unusually, it was the away fans making it to begin with. With both sets of fans together, and both having brought drums and various other instruments, soon we had a home and away cacophony, which was rather endearing but meant that, with two different songs being sung at once, it was often difficult to tell what anyone was singing. It was the home side that had the best of the opening few minutes, which meant- of course- that it was the Hillians that had the first real chance, Keano Deacon robbing Matt Drage just outside the area and firing in a shot which Melvin Minter saved with his legs. The defender seemed to slip, and you had to think that, given the amount of water pouring out of the sky, he wouldn’t be the last to have problems with stability.
The Hawks headed up the other end and the quick feet of ex-Hillian Connor Tighe saw the ball find its way to Nat Pinney on the edge of the box. The Non League Akinfenwa did a quick shimmy of his own and fired goalwards, forcing Mitch Bromage into a save as good as that made by his opposite number. It was at about this point that the first questions about abandonment began circulating around the main stand, perhaps prompted by the news from Lewes that their match with Margate had already come to a premature end.
The eighteenth minute saw the breakthrough, and it came to Burgess Hill. A corner from the right, and up, up went Ben Pope, higher than his marker, to head firmly home. A couple of years ago, before suffering a terrible injury, the then Worthing youngster was being closely watched by a number of professional sides, and whilst he’s struggled to reach pre-injury levels since his return the signs are positive, and he’s still young. With a number of our Bostik youngsters in the spotlight at the moment there seemed little reason why he couldn’t soon be amongst them once more.
Hill took heart, and remained dominant, which- again, meant that the next goal had to come to Whitehawk. And it was a cracker when it arrived, Tighe sweeping the ball into the corner before celebrating wildly in front of the Hawks faithful. “You’ve all gone quiet over there,” they sang, as the home announcer inexplicably gave the goal to Ky Marsh-Brown. They don’t look alike.
Discussions on whether the game would be allowed to finish were getting louder by this point. The ball had begun to stick, and the rain was patently not about to stop any time soon. Both sides were finding the conditions difficult. And then, as we reached the half hour mark, the referee gave three blasts on his whistle. Everyone looked at each other, slightly surprised, and then the players began to shake hands and it became apparent that it was over. Both sets wandered off to salute their own supporters, and a number of them scampered to the bar- or to their cars. Football was over for the day, and the final score was Whitehawk 1, Burgess Hill Town 1, Dierdre 2.